Grace Notes: Belting out ‘Zadok the Priest’…

Most concerts I do consist of orchestral music, usually large and occasionally with a guest soloist. I rarely have the chance to play with choirs so I particularly enjoyed this concert  because not only did I get  to play ‘Zadok the Priest’ (yes, you know the one) and other amazing works by Mozart and Handel, but I got  the chance to combine forces with a fantastic choir.

The concert was a collaboration between the National Youth Orchestra of Wales chamber orchestra (a smaller orchestra, so for example there are only 8 violins in total rather than the 32 you’d find in a symphony orchestra) and the Cardiff Ardwyn Singers . A small number of NYOW members were asked to perform in this concert in Llandaff Cathedral  with the choir, doing a programme of Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Mozart’s Coronation Mass in C.

The concert poster (I do not own this image)

The concert poster (I do not own this image)

The orchestra had a rehearsal on the Friday night to have a look through the music (there was little time to meet as we were coming from all over the UK. For me, this was a nice excuse to have a weekend at home in Cardiff!), but personally, nothing really fitted together until the choir joined us the following day. They had been rehearsing for a while for this concert and so sounded amazing.

I loved the music, but the highlight for me was playing ‘Zadok the Priest’. I had sung through it in a choir rehearsal years ago when I was at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Junior Department but playing in the orchestra, for me, was far better than singing. It starts with quiet semiquaver broken chords in the strings which gradually crescendo for about 22 bars until, when reaching the climax, the choir come crashing in. This is such a recognisable piece and you could tell the whole audience enjoyed listening. It was a great opener to the concert. I thought, after that high, the rest of the concert went well and we continued to bring a smile to people’s faces on a chilly Saturday night.

The Mozart was a short mass (only 25 minutes) but still was totally enthralling throughout the movements (it was my Dad’s favourite). I particularly liked the Credo because it was exciting to play (it’s almost all semiquavers for the violins) and had a beautiful slower middle section where the soloists got a chance to shine as the strings played descending chromatic passages.

I’m really lucky to have been involved in things like this over the years which differ from the larger works I usually do. For me, playing such brilliant choral music in a space like Llandaff Cathedral shows that you don’t need a huge orchestra, with unusual instruments and fancy electronics to create a beautiful and truly engaging experience.


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